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Ukrainian singer, stuck in Seattle with COVID-19 while family flees war, sings his country’s anthem at Kraken game

UPDATED: Wed., March 16, 2022

Roman Vashchuk performs the Ukrainian National Anthem at Wednesday’s Kraken game in Seattle.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
Roman Vashchuk performs the Ukrainian National Anthem at Wednesday’s Kraken game in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

Ukrainian singer Roman Vashchuk had been in Seattle preparing to head home to Kyiv two weeks ago, after a two-month American tour when he contracted COVID-19.

The bout was a dangerous one, leaving him hospitalized with a mild stroke. In the meantime, Russia invaded his homeland and forced his wife, Rosalia, two daughters and a son – ages 10, 7 and 2 – to flee across the border to a refugee camp in Poland.

“It was really scary for me because I didn’t know what was going on over there with them,” Vashchuk, 44, said Wednesday night, standing in a dressing room at Climate Pledge Arena, where, after hearing of his plight, he’d been invited by the Kraken to sing the Ukrainian national anthem before their home game against the Nashville Predators.

Before his performance, Vashchuk detailed his nightmarish past two weeks. He was accompanied by his friend Sergiy Baydyuk, a pastor from Kyiv who’d traveled with Vashchuk to church ministries in various states where he sang holiday songs starting just before Christmas.

The threat of war lingered as Vashchuk prepared to fly back home from Seattle. Then, COVID-19 struck and Vashchuk was rushed to a hospital emergency room, where he remained for a week. Once he recovered, a cardiologist that examined him prohibited Vashchuk from flying until his heart was stronger. He’ll see the doctor again on Friday and hopes to be cleared.

He and Baydyuk showed smartphone photos of the devastation sent them by friends from the Ukraine. “This is what we’re seeing over there,” Vashchuk said. “But there’s nothing I can do from over here.”

Baydyuk said: “The world has to see this and know what’s happening.”

Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke came into the dressing room to greet Vashchuk, thank him for agreeing to sing and wish him luck in getting back home. Then, Leiweke told the men to follow him out, led them down some corridors, then a dark tunnel before they emerged at the Kraken’s bench.

The Kraken were on the ice doing warmups as Vashchuk and his friend stood in coach Dave Hakstol’s typical position behind the bench watching wide-eyed. Then, Leiweke motioned for starting goalie Chris Dreidger to skate over and he greeted Vashchuk and posed for photos with him.

They remained on the Kraken’s bench the rest of the warmup before heading inside. “Thank you so much,” Vashchuk told Leiweke.

Back in his dressing room, Vashchuk again turned serious as he prepared to head out to sing.

“This is very important,” he said. “I want to send encouragement to my country. And I’m a Christian. I pray for Ukraine. I pray for the United States, too, because there’s been a lot of help and support coming from here to my country. God Bless America.”

Minutes later, Vashchuk walked onto a red carpet covering the ice. The public address announcer introduced him to the crowd of 17,151, telling fans the Kraken stand behind the Ukrainian people and condemn the Russian invasion. The crowd gave him a loud ovation before and after he’d belted out his rousing rendition.

Later, Vashchuk’s performance done, he and Baydyuk accompanied Leiweke to a suite, where they met Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and Consul of Ukraine Valeriy Goloborodko.

The Kraken also announced that their One Roof Foundation will donate a portion of proceeds from Wednesday’s Anchor Auction to USA for UNHCR – the United Nations refugee agency helping the people of Ukraine.

Vashchuk’s family are some of those refugees being helped. “I pray that they are going to be OK,” he said.

Seattle Kraken Day

The number 32 has held significance for the Kraken long before this expansion season got underway.

It starts with the 32,000 fans putting down Kraken season ticket deposits in just more than a day’s time in March 2018. And the fact those deposits helped lead to the team being approved as the NHL’s 32nd franchise in a board of governors vote nine months later.

To honor that, the team chose Wednesday – the third month and second day – to honor the No. 32 on its first “Kraken Day” celebrating the franchise’s arrival. Seattle Mayor Harrell was on hand at the Kraken Community Iceplex to issue an official proclamation declaring Wednesday “Seattle Kraken Day” across the city.

“When we look at what the Kraken organization has done, we’ve made history,” Harrell said. “And it’s very important that you young folks learned a lesson. We all learned a lesson too. Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose in a game, it’s what? It’s how you play the game.”

Harrell praised the Kraken and the Oak View Group for spending nearly $200 million on women and minority owned contractors in building Climate Pledge Arena and the Community Iceplex. The city and OVG partnered in the arena, which was rebuilt for $1.15 billion using completely private funding.

The mayor also lauded the franchise for bringing hope to the community and sports fans during two years of a coronavirus pandemic that’s killed 900,000 people nationwide.

“It gives us something to look forward to,” Harrell said.

Kraken CEO Leiweke noted it was four years to the day when the last of the 32,000 ticket deposits was collected. “It gave life to so many dreams,” he said. “Those fans gave life not just to the Seattle Kraken, but they truly gave life to the arena.”

Leiweke added that more than 1 million people are projected to pass through the Community Iceplex and take part in its public programs by the end of its first year next September.

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